Thursday, September 29, 2011

Down Under

I have almost finished reading Bill Bryson’s Down Under spread across waiting for people at airports , on a couple of short flights and the long lay-over time in between. It’s a fun read and almost instantly wants you to somehow make way to see Australia.

It’s the driest, flattest, hottest, most infertile and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents and still Australia teems with life- a large portion of it quite deadly. In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in a very nasty way than anywhere else.Yet, it intrigues .The people are extrovert, quick-witted and love their sporting nation culture. Their cities are safe and clean, nearly always built near water. The food is excellent; beer cold and the sun nearly always shines. Doesn’t get better than it.The Australians must be proud that from the most awkwardly unpropitious beginnings, in a remote and challenging place, they have created a prosperous and dynamic society.

There are various humorous quotes and interesting titbits about the country and its history. I am almost through the book and would re-post the most catchy lines, info and phrases soon.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


This is my 108th blog post.

And it is a good number with lots of cultural references attached to it. It is considered sacred in many eastern religions, Sikhish, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Shintoism, Taoism .

According to ayurveda there are 108 pressure points in the body.

In Japan, at the end of the year, a bell is chimed in Buddhist temples to finish the old year and welcome the new one.

There are 108 beads in a rosary.

There are 108 upanishads (ancient Indian sacred texts of wisdom)

There are 108 feelings – 36 each related to past, present and future

There are 12 constellations and 9 arc segments 12x 9 is 108

It is believed that a person must overcome the 108 earthly temptations to achieve nirvana

The atomic weight of silver is 108.

The first manned space flight lasted 108 minutes, on April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin, Russian Cosmonaut

It had a recurring appearance in Lost with the 4 8 15 16 23 42 totaling 108 and as the integral part of the Valenzetti Equation

Stonehenge is 108 feet in diameter

It is the toll free emergency number in India.

The highest broadcast band of FM radio is 108 .

An official major league baseball has 108 stitches

There are 108 cards in the UNO game (I love that game)

The spherical angle between Sydney and Los Angeles is 108 degrees plus little more decimals over.

The exterior angles between the points of a pentagram and the interior angles of a pentagon are 108 degrees. In Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ Odysseus is forced to fight off 108 suitors when he returns to his wife Penelope.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fall TV shows

The Emmy has ended and the fall TV season has began. It is a good time for sitcomers as the weekly dose of humour is assured. That’s the best thing about sitcoms – they are addictive and generally give the viewers a good time. Also, shows can pick up from a momentary dip in form in a season and start afresh. You see all sitcoms are not Seinfeld or Cheers. This season, some shows might jump the shark and others might consolidate their storylines, jokes and Emmy winning status. A look at some shows premiering new seasons this fall

The Office

Dunder Mifflin without Michael Scott ? Now how is that going to pan out ? Last heard James Spader as Robert California is a small term replacement as the boss ..more changes in store here. Starts Sept.22 on NBC

The Big Bang Theory I am not that excited about this one. Bazinga !!Can’t wait for the season premiere. Big Bang moves to Thursday and this season has definite potential. Nerd ! Starts Sept.22 on CBS

How I Met Your Mother Personally,it has lost the zing of the first couple of seasons, and I have not caught the last 2 seasons entirely.But it remains popular enough.Although seriously , how long are those kids going to be stuck up in the sofa ? 2030? Get a move on Ted.Starts Sept 19 on CBS.

Two and a Half Men Ashton Kutcher replaces Charlie Sheen.Peek in to see what difference does it makes after all? Starts Sept.22 on CBS

New Girl Zooey Deschanel joins sis Emily on the Fox network. Zooey moving in with 3 guys and trying to figure out things and love life is an interesting premise for a new show. Will at least half a dozen episodes before having an opinion about this. But will watch Zooey. Starts Sept 20 on Fox.

Parks and Recreation Another mockumentary set-up and part of NBC’s Thursday comic line up returns for season 4.Solid performers in this one from Amy Poehler to Rashida Jones to Aziz Ansari.Starts Sept 22 on NBC

Modern Family Best Comedy Emmy winner .Seaon 3 lies ahead for the Pritchett family.Dysfunctional? Sort of.Charming ? You bet .Must watch.Starts Sept 21 on ABC

Saturday, September 17, 2011

90 Pringles at Sharjah

Earlier this week, we had to pick up an interior designer from the European wing of the consultancy and so I went with our company driver to pick him up late night at the Sharjah International Airport. Of course if he would have come to Abu Dhabi then we would not have to drive all the way to Sharjah, but we were driving late night and the traffic had eased up and well petrol is not that big a deal over here.

Anyway I thought lets go as next week we are boarding flights from here itself for the much vaunted break needed from the summer that is hitting 48°C by 10 in the morning .We went after our naan and houmos dinner washed down by a 7-Up and a little bit more drinks in the car dashboard for the journey .I had picked up a book just in case it gets late and the flights are delayed.

The long desolate airport road stretch

The whole airport itself is a throw back to simpler times in the gulf. The airport lounges, the trolleys and the closely stuck triple dome structure of the airport are still in the early 90s mode. No extravagance, just efficiently adequate and charming. Elsewhere and quite closely, it is radically different. Dubai Airport is the busiest in the world and now it has 360 arrival and departure gates. Yes 3..6..0 . That many. There was a time in 60s when the Dubai airport (below) was the bare minimum airstrip. Quite a remarkable turnaround it has been. Now the Emirates and Etihad airways are the best in the world .But we were at Sharjah. The tiny little emirate just nestled around the corner of the ostentatious Dubai.

We reached by 10 and went in and started the wait from the floor 1 aisle waiting area aisle. We kept looking at the ticker screen for arrivals and it was not flashing our flight number yet .We hanged around a bit , went to the airline office just to confirm and it was delayed from 11.30 to 1.30 am. Fantastic ! We had to wait, so we also contemplated a quick bite, but after going through the counters of the immaculately neat and terribly overpriced outlets of McDonalds and Baskin Robbins, we decided, its better to keep our Dirhams in our wallet and walk away. There was so much time to kill now and once you are at the airport you can not sleep. So after a few desultory trips to the duty free shop and chatting up with the money exchange lady at Travelex, we did people watching from the first floor. The airport had a judicious race mix - Arabs, Asians, Filipinos, Europeans and Africans from all over the places – Karachi, Kiev, Manila, Jeddah, Calicut and Nairobi. You may surmise that Sharjah is a hub that connects the smaller cities around the world. But incidentally, the Sharjah airport is a major cargo hub and is the second biggest in the region.

After a while of roaming around, i told Shereef (who I call Sheriff) – the ever smiling, goggles wielding, pot bellied driver and my company for the night ‘Lets go to the van and get those drinks in the dashboard’. I also wanted to get hold of my Bill Bryson book – Down Under which I got from a second hand book stall when I came here last time and had boarded one my favourite bus fleets – see the pic below.

It was only 11.30, but as soon as went past those sliding doors, into the actual weather, i felt a slap on the face from the humid and hot night breeze. It was like a punch made of hot microwave air. Added to that it’s sticky, sandy, hot and a couple of minutes walk is an ordeal the body doesn’t want to take. Shereef was his cool self and giggling at the misery. And once we got there I got those Pringles too. I cranked up the car A/C for some respite.

The view from the floor 1 waiting aisle

Sheriff borrowed my headphones saying it has more quality or clarity, i don’t quite remember even though he had his own (bugger!) and utilised the time to transfer some new songs from my mobile and i got on to munching those 90 chips (Fiery Hot Barbeque Flavour ) in the tin and read Bryson’s amusing and informative Down Under . We idled over and took another hour or so and by the time customs and immigration cleared everything , we caught hold of our designer guy at around 1.52 am and then drove back . Anyway had to come again soon for our flights to India next week.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


September 11, 2001. You likely remember where you were, what were you doing. How you watched those twin towers fall to ground and reduced to rubble of concrete and steel.

I was in ONGC Baroda, participating in a regional U-16 football camp and saw the images on a television set up in the mess as me and my school mates sat down for dinner. We went home a day later and the media was still covering the most audacious attack on American soil till date. And by then the term 9/11 had not even been coined. That was a term that came later on to tag along with the vague, intangible but decade spawning ‘war on terror’. Before that countries went to war on countries. There was an aggressor and a defender, a venue and a warfield. The 'war on terror' was more approximation, guestimation, red herrings and failed leads that frustrated the allies to no end. 9/11 changed the world’s external affairs. It is a day that still haunts many. With consequences that we still live with .

The 9/11 hijackers demonstrated that the terrorist game plan had changed. And now all of a sudden, they were willing to die on a mission. Since then the allies have gone to war to Afghanistan and Iraq, tracked down and killed Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. While going after Al Qaida and Laden was an immediate priority, the invasion of Iraq was done on the back of an incoherent strategic plan and in search of WMD’s that were never there as shown in Paul Greengrass’ Greenzone. People, even American citizens saw it as the US foreign policy to drill holes in other countries and suck the oil out . And after a decade and wars costing 3 trillion dollars, America will pull out of Afghanistan and withdraw its troops.

More than the immediate impact , the damage to America has been more layered with it fighting wars with money from credit, it went from bad to worse as the housing bubble bust, followed by the fall of investment banks and an economy that got itself down-graded .Even Osama bin Laden would not have dreamed of this kind of impact . As for Barack Obama who won on agenda of change, the capture of Laden also wouldn’t do him much good .With plummeting ratings, sick economy, an eminent second dip in recession, unemployment and policies that have failed to work as he might have expected, it might not be surprising if he doesn’t stand for a second term and George Bush might be every tempted to ask him the next time around…

‘It isn’t that easy to fix things, is it?’

The US 10 years hence has build the 9/11 memorial and commiserates and remembers the 10 year anniversary on Sunday.